Community Gardens—Where People and Plants Come Together

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Community Gardens—Where People and Plants Come Together
+
Plants
HOW TO GROW A COMMUNITY GARDEN
Patti Nagai
People+Plants is a
multimedia series on
how to build, maintain,
and make the most of
community gardens.
For more titles and
topics in the series, visit
learningstore.uwex.edu.
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HOW TO GROW A COMMUNITY GARDEN
People
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HOW TO GROW A COMMUNITY GARDEN
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HOW TO GROW A COMMUNITY GARDEN
A3905-01
Community Gardens—
Where people and
plants come together
I
f you ask 10 people to describe a
community garden, you will probably get 10 different answers.
That’s because the concept of a
community garden often varies from
person to person and community to
community.
Some people will say a community
garden is a grassy park where children
play, surrounded by beds of beautiful
flowers. Others will describe it as a field
of subdivided plots where individuals
and families work the soil to produce
organic food. Still others will say it’s an
empty city lot that’s been converted
to a sustainable garden to beautify
the neighborhood, or that it’s simply
a small raised bed at a community
center that allows elderly gardeners to
sit while tending the flowers.
Community gardens are all of these
things, and more.
Which one
is a community
garden?
• A pantry garden growing food
to distribute to families in need
• A youth garden at a school,
church, or community center
• A rental plot garden on a city
lot where neighbors can garden
together to grow food for their
families
• A courtyard garden at a correctional facility where youthful
offenders grow vegetables and
donate them to the local food
bank
• A demonstration or teaching
garden where gardening classes
are held
• A volunteer garden devoted to
therapeutic benefits for seniors,
hospital patients, the incarcerated, or people with disabilities
The answer, of course, is that these
are all community gardens. A community garden is any space that is
used by a group of people to grow
plants, whether for beauty, education, therapy, or food.
P EO P L E
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P L A NTS
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Whenever people and plants come
together for individual and communal
good, you have a community garden. A
community garden is what the people
involved make of it, what the community wants it to be. And the success
and longevity of a garden is determined by who participates and how
the garden is integrated into the community. Successful, enduring community gardens—sustainable gardens—
require more than just growing plants
and food; they require people growing
together.
What are the benefits
of a community garden?
The act of gardening is therapeutic in
many ways. Working the soil, nurturing
plant growth, harvesting delectable
fruits, and even just viewing green
space have all been shown to improve
the health and mental well-being
of those involved. When gardening
and green space are combined with
the spirit of a community working
together, those benefits are enhanced.
A research project conducted by the
University of Wisconsin-Waukesha
found that 92% of gardeners surveyed
agreed with the statement “I eat new
kinds of food,” 84% agreed that “I feel
more involved in this neighborhood,”
76% donate or give extra food to other
people, and 77% agreed that “I spend
more time with my family” (Bubinas
2011). Research continues to prove
that gardeners make great neighbors,
great neighbors build healthy communities, and healthy communities
garden.
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Overall well-being
Gardening remains the number one
hobby in the United States for many
good reasons, but perhaps the most
important is that it improves the
way people feel. An abundance of
research has shown that people and
plants grow well
together. Plants
thrive when
people care for
them, and in
return, plants
provide amazing
therapeutic benefits to humans’
health. Studies
present hard facts on decreased blood
pressure, increased cognitive function,
and an enhanced sense of well-being,
but any gardener can tell you that even
without the research to back it up.
Nutrition and health
Those who garden tend to eat better.
A study of community gardeners
in Cleveland, Ohio found that “community gardening contributes to a
change in diet among ¾ of both new
and continuing gardeners” (Blaine et al.
2010). A survey of community gardeners in southeastern Wisconsin found
that those who participated in com-
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munity gardens ate more than twice as
many servings of vegetables per day
as those who did not (Lackey 1998).
Gardening has a number of health
benefits as well. Gardeners at community gardens in southeastern Wisconsin reported more than twice as many
hours of physical activity per
week as those who were not
gardening (Lackey 1998).
In Racine and Waukesha,
71% of community gardeners reported that they
were more physically active
because of their work in the
garden (Bubinas 2011).
A recent study examining the medical
records of more than 345,000 residents
of the Netherlands found that those
living in a predominantly green environment were significantly less likely
to have an anxiety disorder than those
living in an environment with less than
10% green space. The study also found
links between amounts of green space
and other health issues (Maas et al.
2009).
In 2010, a Wall Street Journal article
summarized the findings of several U.S.
research studies on the therapeutic
value of gardening. From lowering
and stabilizing heart rates in cardiac
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Preserving green space, water,
and wildlife
Carefully planned community gardens
can help meet all sorts of conservation and preservation goals. In urban
areas, the green space that community
gardens provide reduces city heat
from concrete and asphalt and reduces
stormwater runoff.
patients to significantly increasing
participants’ self-rated health and
happiness, working with plants was
well documented as a beneficial
activity (Chaker 2010).
Community wellness
Numerous studies have shown that
communities benefit from community
gardens. Sociological studies done in
neighborhoods on Chicago’s South
Side have shown that communities
Economics, food security,
where neighbors garden together
and local food
have lower crime rates (Hurley 2004).
Community gardens can have a signifiStudies in large urban areas and
cant positive impact on local economsmaller communities throughout the
ics and food security. They also make
nation have shown that people who
fresh, locally grown produce available
live in neighborhoods with comto more people. Some community
munity gardens are generally more
gardeners sell their garden produce at
satisfied than people in neighborlocal farmers’ markets as a way to suphoods without them. And according to
plement their income. Others simply
a report on community gardeners, “A
reduce their food costs by growing
profile of participants in an Extension
their own fruits and vegetables.
urban community gardening program
Pantry gardens run by volunteers are
reveals that the program is successful
a great resource for supplying fresh,
in bringing together a large number of
locally grown produce to local food
people from diverse income and age
banks, shelters, pantries, and meal
groups” (Blaine et al. 2010).
preparation sites. Tailoring the selecThe American Community Gardening
tion of garden items to local needs and
Association tracks gardens all over
cultural tastes is one way community
the United States and has found that
gardens can reduce food costs for
the benefits to neighborhoods are
families while supporting and celfar-reaching: They bring youth and
ebrating different cultures.
adults together in a common bond
and provide a place where neighbors,
friends, and families can work together,
creating memories that will last a
lifetime.
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Many communities struggle with
water issues, and while it might seem
that community gardens consume
significant water resources, a welldesigned community garden can
actually conserve water. Community
gardens can collect rainwater for
use in the garden and reduce stormwater runoff by absorbing rainwater.
The rainwater soaks into the ground
and filters slowly through vegetation
before entering the groundwater
system.
Community gardens also introduce
a diverse selection of plants into the
environment, helping to support
native wildlife such as birds, bees, and
butterflies.
Volunteering and giving back
Community gardens enrich communities by offering an opportunity for
community members to volunteer
and give back to the community in a
variety of ways. As more people retire
and some find themselves looking for
a meaningful purpose in their daily
routine, community gardens offer
a beautiful way to fill a day and do
meaningful work. Community gardens
also provide venues for teaching youth
and adults to be more self-sufficient—
a reward unto itself. Community
gardeners grow flowers, fruits, and
vegetables, but most importantly,
gardeners grow communities.
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Life and leadership skills
Consider these questions:
Community gardens come with many
responsibilities and therefore offer
many opportunities for youth and
adults to learn valuable skills and
lessons. Community gardeners can
develop skills as simple as starting a
tomato plant and as complicated as
scheduling water usage and volunteer
time.
• Do you have a site? Do you
know who owns it?
Planning skills play an integral role,
whether you are drawing the dimensions of your space or plotting the
activities for the season. Watering and
weeding are responsibilities that must
be performed routinely if your goal
is to successfully produce food. And
study and teaching skills—developed
through activities such as reading and
learning about ways to manage pests,
researching which plant types and
cultivars will work best, and teaching
that information to others—are skills
that will last a lifetime.
Resources needed
If you think a community garden
might be right for you, consider
whether you have everything you
need to grow a sustainable garden
before you take the plunge.
P L A N T S
• Do you know the history
of the site? Are there dry
cleaners, gas stations, or
other potential contaminators nearby?
• Is water available? If so, who
will pay for the water?
• Who will manage the
garden and make decisions
on rules and guidelines?
• Will there be a fee associated with gardening?
• Who will assume liability for
the garden?
• Do you have a horticulturist or
garden educator to assist with
planning, teaching, and developing
community garden guidelines?
If you are ready to take the next step,
consult the UW-Extension publication Starting a Community Garden for
step-by-step instructions to translate
your ambitions into action. (See the
Additional Resources section for full
details.)
First, determine whether your community is interested: Talk to your neighbors, your community group, and your
local government to see whether they
will support the effort. Consider the
volunteer roles needed for the planning process, and schedule a meeting
to discuss the vision for your community garden. Having a vision, a shortterm plan, and long-term resources are
all crucial to the ultimate success of
your garden.
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Dr. Felton Earls of Harvard University
conducted an extensive sociological study of Chicago neighborhoods
and community gardens, which was
summarized in a 2004 New York Times
article. “Cities that sow community
gardens, [Earls] said, may reap a
harvest of not only kale and tomatoes,
but safer neighborhoods and healthier
children” (Hurley 2004). Dr. Earls’s
research emphasizes that community
gardens are about collective efficacy,
or the betterment of a community and
its members by the members themselves. When people come together
to clean up a city lot and grow plants,
their respect for each other—and
themselves—grows also.
Done well, community gardening
benefits individual gardeners and
the community as a whole. Properly
planned and maintained gardens
beautify the area, promote healthy
living, and foster community growth.
At its heart, that’s what community
gardening is all about: people building
partnerships, sharing resources, and
working toward a common good.
P E O P L E
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P L A N T S
Additional resources
To find more titles and topics in the
People + Plants series, including Starting a Community Garden (A3905-02),
visit http://learningstore.uwex.edu.
For more information on community
gardens and their benefits, see also
these resources:
American Community Garden
Association (ACGA)
www.communitygarden.org
A nonprofit of professionals, volunteers, and supporters of greening in
urban and rural communities. Offers
research, publications, and other
resources.
Community Food Security Coalition
(CFSC) www.foodsecurity.org
A coalition of diverse people and
organizations working from local to
international levels to build community food security. Includes links to
community garden sites around the
nation.
C O M E
T O G E T H E R
Food & Ecosystem Educational
Demonstration Sites (FEEDS)
http://feeds.uwex.edu/index.cfm
This grant-funded project facilitated
by UW-Extension links individuals
involved in common ground gardening projects to share research
and resources. The “Checklist for
Getting Started” offers ideas for
starting and maintaining a community garden.
Gardening Matters
www.gardeningmatters.org
Provides training and resources to
help community gardeners establish
successful and sustainable community gardens.
Urban Harvest
www.urbanharvest.org/index.html
Offers helpful resources on the many
aspects of urban community gardening, including why community
gardens are valuable and the details
of budgeting.
UW-Extension Cooperative
Extension Horticulture Team
http://hort.uwex.edu
Provides information on gardening topics, including disease and
insect identification. Includes links
to hundreds of vegetable and fruit
publications.
Yards to Gardens
www.y2g.org
Whether you have extra gardening
space, tools, seeds, or seedlings, or
whether you’re looking for a space
to garden, Y2G makes it easy to
share and find all things gardening.
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References
Blaine, Thomas W., Parwinder S.
Grewal, Ashley Dawes, & Darrin
Snider. 2010. “Profiling Community
Gardeners.” Journal of Extension 48
(December): abstract. www.joe.org/
joe/2010december/a6.php.
Bubinas, Kathleen. 2011. Urban Agriculture:
A Study of Community Gardens as
Sustainable Pathways to Food Security
in the City. University of Wisconsin–
Waukesha. Available at www.waukesha.
uwc.edu/Faculty---Staff/Directory/
Faculty-Staff-A-C/Kathleen-Bubinas/
Urban-Agriculture-Report.aspx.
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Lackey, Jill Florence & Associates. 1998.
Evaluation of Community Gardens.
Available at www.uwex.edu/ces/
pdande/evaluation/pdf/comgardens.
PDF.
Maas, J., R.A. Verheij, S. de Vries, P.
Spreeuwenberg, F.G. Schellevis, P.P.
Groenewegen. 2009. “Morbidity Is
Related to a Green Living Environment.”
Journal of Epidemiology & Community
Health 63: 967–73. doi: 10.1136/
jech.2008.079038.
Chaker, Anne Marie. 2010. “When Treatment
Involves Dirty Fingernails.” Wall Street
Journal, April 6. Available at http://online.
wsj.com/article/SB100014240527023046
20304575165831058222608.html.
Hurley, Dan. 2004. “Scientist at Work—
Felton Earls.” New York Times, January
6. Available at www.nytimes.
com/2004/01/06/science/scientist-atwork-felton-earls-on-crime-as-science-aneighbor-at-a-time.html.
Copyright © 2012 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System doing business as the division of Cooperative Extension of
the University of Wisconsin-Extension. All rights reserved. Send copyright inquiries to: Cooperative Extension Publishing, 432 N. Lake St.,
Rm. 227, Madison, WI 53706, [email protected]
Author: Patti Nagai is horticulture educator with Racine County University of Wisconsin-Extension.
Reviewers: Kathleen Bubinas is associate professor of anthropology at University of Wisconsin-Waukesha.
Heidi Johnson is agriculture agent with Jefferson County UW-Extension.
Cooperative Extension
University of Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wisconsin counties,
publishes this information to further the purpose of the May 8 and June 30, 1914, Acts of Congress. An EEO/AA employer, the University of
Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title IX and ADA
requirements. If you need this information in an alternative format, contact Equal Opportunity and Diversity Programs, University of WisconsinExtension, 432 N. Lake St., Rm. 501, Madison, WI 53706, [email protected], phone: (608) 262-0277, fax: (608) 262-8404, TTY: 711 Wisconsin Relay.
This publication is available from your county UW-Extension office (www.uwex.edu/ces/cty) or from Cooperative Extension Publishing.
To order, call toll-free: 1-877-WIS-PUBS (1-877-947-7827) or visit our website: learningstore.uwex.edu.
Community Gardens—Where People and Plants Come Together (A3905-01)I-01-2012

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